July 25, 2011

Thoughts for Hale Adams...

Hale Adams is in a foul mood, which is always good for the creative juices! Me, I'm in a pretty cranky mood too, and for some of the same reasons. This is a hasty answer to a comment he posted here. (Other comments deserve answers, but this may use up my limited amount of time and energy--sorry.)

Um, John, maybe it's you who should think. How does the State allowing gays and lesbians to enter into a marriage contract make you and Charlene any less married? How are the two of you injured?

That wasn't my point at all, but yes, we are "less married." We have invested the bulk of of what we are and possess in an institution, and now the terms of the contract are being downgraded. In libertarian terms, it might be like spending all your money to join an exclusive club, and then having the government say that other people must be admitted for free.

The State has to define marriage because it is, in its civil aspects, a partnership.

No, the state has never even considered doing that until recent decades. It merely adumbrated the tradition of all of Western Civilization. Likewise, the early Republican opposition to Mormon polygamy was really saying: "No, you cannot change the definition of marriage."

Now, I understand your impulse to say "Ick!" at the idea of gay marriage. But what two consenting adults do in private ain't my business or yours. If those two consenting adults are doing something the Church doesn't like, and they are members of the Church, then the Church has the duty to impose discipline.

You insult me. I'm talking ideas, not "Ick!"

If they aren't members of the Church, the Church can certainly say its piece, but it doesn't get to use the power of the State to impose any kind of penalty on them. Allowing the Church to impose such penalties, or to prohibit the conduct outright only gives power to the Church, "power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way," if I may hurl your words back at you.

If this was a case of "the Church" as a human institution coming up with a rule or discipline and imposing it on people using the power of the state, I'd agree with you. I don't think you should be forced to eat fish on Friday! But that's not the issue here. The theory is that God defined marriage. (And just FYI, he didn't define it in the sense of an arbitrary rule; rather, this is an expression of the moral law woven into the fabric of the Universe, and even God can't change it unless he abandons his character as the Divine Lawgiver.)

So, why should a libertarian care? I'd answer, "In what sense do we have rights?" The founders wrote: "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Do you believe that that's true? I assume not. So do we have "rights?" Our country is founded on the that rights are "unalienable." That means they CANNOT be taken away. A tyrannical government can deny you the enjoyment of them, but they still exist, and always will.

In the libertarian worldview, I suspect, we do not have any rights. Not in that sense. Humans can pass a law that says we have such-and-such a "right," but next year other humans can repeal that law. That's why I tend to say the libertarianism is a form of liberalism. Liberalism is always, on a deep level, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, without reference to fixed landmarks outside our system.

Our founding fathers explicitly rejected this. As John Adams put it, "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament..." And they also wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Which is to say, you can't get there by human powers of reason. You just have to dig it. (And this is exactly what I mean by a "fixed landmark.")

That, I think, is the crux, for any American in politics. That's what really bugs me about Gov. Perry's statement. (Thank you Hale for stimulating me to ponder this.) He is rejecting the essence of our American system, without thinking! Our system rests on the idea of God as the Divine Lawgiver. Our rights exist in exactly the same way that the ancient theory of Judeo-Christian marriage exists. Our Bill of Rights is just a local and human instantiation of moral laws that are baked into the structure of the universe. Human rights and the definition of marriage stand or fall on the same theory.

I think Perry is a good example of what I consider a fundamental rule: Your "philosophy" is the most important part of your mental equipment, because if it is not rock-solid, sooner or later you will be swept away by the world's torrents of fad and fancy and change.

I won't go into the rest of your comment, which I mostly agree with. As the old saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Fortunately our younger priests are a lot more solid than the baby-boomers in charge now. So time may improve things a bit.

Posted by John Weidner at July 25, 2011 12:00 PM
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